Legislation was recently introduced in the Texas Senate that would require minimum education requirements for those who calibrate, repair, or perform preventive maintenance on medical equipment in Texas. The initial bill (Senate Bill 1193), introduced by Sen Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), would require an associate’s degree as a biomedical equipment technician, a bachelor’s degree in engineering, or a military certificate to service Class II or Class III medical devices.

Though no evidence was provided by the senator or his constituents that there is a problem with the safety of medical equipment being serviced by personnel who do not meet these educational requirements, the basic idea of the bill makes sense. We have worked with the senator and his staff on the rewording of the bill—including the addition of a grandfather clause for those who have worked in the field. The bill still has to pass through the House before it can become law.

I believe the main focus of this bill is: How do you show competency in the service of medical equipment? Most of us have graduated from a program with a degree in biomed. Many have completed the military biomedical equipment program in Fitzsimons or at Wichita Falls. Others were hired with an associate’s degree in electronics and were trained by a manufacturer to work on its equipment. Still others have come up through the ranks and never completed an associate’s degree or higher that is specifically in biomedical technology services.

How do we show that we are competent to work on medical equipment? Most hospitals have educational requirements for their BMETs or clinical engineers (CEs) when they hire them that are probably similar to the ones in the senator’s bill. Most companies will waive the educational requirements in place of experience.

What about having certification as a substitute for the educational requirements? I believe most hospitals do not have a requirement for certification for job placement for their BMETs or CEs. (Baylor does require their senior BMETs to be actively certified.) I think that BMET or CE certification is a great way to ensure “that individuals have demonstrated excellence in theoretical as well as practical knowledge of the principles of biomedical equipment technology” (see www.aami.org/certification/about.html). Wouldn’t an outside body that certifies the competency of the individual be adequate for a state? Should the state require certification in lieu of some type of educational requirement to service medical equipment?

Are you willing to wait for your state to pass legislation that puts educational or certification requirements on those who service medical equipment? Or, will you be proactive and complete your education requirements or your certification and then be prepared when it happens? Both of these are things that are under your control. You can finish your degree by going to school after work or by completing it online. Both take preparation and studying to successfully pass the exam(s). Both require you to take the initiative to complete them. Both are under your control. Neither can happen overnight.

The senator’s bill is currently written to take effect September 1, 2009. This does not allow anyone enough time to pass a certification exam or complete a degree. So why wait for this to happen in your state when you can control when you undertake either of these? Take the steps necessary to complete either one of these, and if (or when) your state decides to pass similar legislation you will be prepared and it will not negatively impact you. As the Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Take this opportunity to prepare for your future. So when people say you are lucky that you do not have to worry about the legislation, you can tell them, “No, I prepared for it.”

Read past Soapbox columns in the archives.

Halfway through my career I decided I would like to become a manager. I decided that to be an effective manager I should learn more about managing people and processes, and I should have a thorough understanding of business. So I decided to get a business degree. I went to school 4 nights a week for many years to complete the degree. After I graduated I believed that the bachelor’s degree would not be enough to move higher in most organizations, so I dedicated another 2 years to complete my MBA. I took the time and initiative to prepare myself for my future. You can do the same thing. Take control of your career—whether it is finishing your degree or getting certified.

So what do I say when someone tells me I am lucky to be a director of biomedical engineering? I tell them, “No, I prepared for it.”

David Braeutigam, MBA, CBET, is the director of biomedical engineering for Baylor Health Care System in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He started his career in 1976 in the US Army as a BMET. He is active in the North Texas Biomedical Association, serving as president several times; and he served as a 2009 co-chair of AAMI’s program committee.For more information, contact .

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